Bars. Parties. Volleyball teams. Dating apps. For singles, the question of where people meet is crucial.
“Am I really going to meet my wife in a grocery store?” asks Cole Barnett, a 27-year-old realtor and contestant on season 3 of dating show Love Is Blind. The assumed answer is no, regardless of how often he stalks the aisles of his local Trader Joe’s, eyeing both the frozen Thai vegetable dumplings and other shoppers’ ring fingers.
That’s why, ostensibly, Cole and 29 other singles have opted to go looking for love not in a crowded club or bustling bookstore. Instead, they’ve headed into “pods” just big enough to hold a couch and all their expectations that the person on the other side of a soothing, swirly blue wall is marriage material.
“There’s something about the pods that really just allows people to be incredibly vulnerable,” Love Is Blind Executive Producer Ally Simpson said.
The first four episodes of season 3 of Love Is Blind arrived on Netflix this week. For those who’ve managed to avoid the memes on social media, the show places singles in their 20s and 30s into small rooms called pods, where they talk to each other for hours on end without actually seeing each other. Until they get engaged, that is.
The show explores whether people can fall in love without the usual hang-ups like age, height or weight getting in the way. (It helps that most of the cast qualifies as conventionally attractive.) After they do meet, the engaged couples spend time at a resort, living in shared apartments, and ideally make it to the altar. Since the show started in 2020, there have been four marriages, two of which have ended in divorce. But it all starts with dates in the pods.
Every octagonal pod has one of the aforementioned couches — gray and usually rounded or squared off — and a circular ottoman that sits on a long strip of dark red carpet (the red being a nod to love and romance). The walls are velvety looking, and the pillows are typically some mix of earthy browns and reds. Though you can’t see it on screen, each pod has snacks stashed away.
Simpson said there are two main goals in the pods’ design: They’ve got to be comfortable and they can’t be distracting.
“We want you to get in there and feel at home, feel like you’re on a date, and just be a comfortable place that you can settle into for a long, long time — they talk for hours and hours,” Simpson told me over the phone.
Some daters certainly do get comfortable. While most start out dressed in three-piece suits and silky semi-formal dresses, inevitably, they start going into the pods with athleisure clothes, hauling in their blankets and the signature golden metal goblets which have gone viral. Prim posture gives way to sitting on the floor or sprawling on the couch. Or, in the case of 29-year-old pilates instructor Raven Ross, jumping jacks.
Though the pods are furnished sparsely, the cast can ask the producers for anything from more elaborate themed dates to facial skincare masks to nachos. In the first batch of episodes this season, Ross brings in yoga balls for her and her date (and later an exercise band). There was a silent disco where the cast could listen to music with each other through headphones. Simpson even said there was a beach-themed date including beach chairs that didn’t make the season’s final cut.
“If you’re going to marry someone, you want to know that you can have fun with them,” Simpson said. “You want to know, Do we connect over the music? When she gets her sushi, is she picky about what sauce was there or wasn’t there? You want to create those experiences to try to learn as much as you can about each other.”
Talk to the wall
The broader color palette of the pods might be pretty mellow, but there’s a notable bright streak of color in every pod. The couches face a blue wall that sort of glows and swirls. Simpson said it’s meant to symbolize the energy of the person in the adjoining pod, to help the daters feel closer and less like they’re merely listening to a voice piped in through a speaker from somewhere else. She said the show’s producers have spent time sitting, looking at the wall themselves and asking themselves if it feels right.
“If it was just a blank wall, you might feel like you were all alone in that room,” Simpson said. They landed on the wall’s blue tone as something that feels inviting without being a distraction.
When it comes time to propose, mostly, the couples get up off the couch and stand facing each other through that blue wall.
As eager as the couples are to get out of the pods eventually and, you know, look at each other, for some, those pod conversations end up being the easiest part of the relationship. Season 1’s Mark Cuevas and Jessica Batten went through their share of tumult — partly because Jessica was hung up on another guy from the pods — but in a last ditch effort to reconnect, Mark tried to re-create the pod experience at their apartment.
The pair sat on opposite sides of a wall with candles, rose petals and fancy dinners, and as Simpson pointed out, that night was the night they finally took the step of having sex.
“It can be scary to look someone in the eye and to share something,” Simpson said, “This just makes you feel safe, like ‘I’m just gonna put it out to the wall. I know someone is on the other side, but it feels like I’m just telling the wall.'”
Just don’t freak out when a voice from behind the wall asks you to marry it.